Homicide charge: NJ bus driver ignored screams while dragging man by arm
NEWARK — A commuter bus driver ignored both the shouts of a man whose arm she caught in the bus door and the screams of her passengers as she dragged him down a city street, police said.
As soon as the man — who was forced to desperately run for his life — broke free, the NJ Transit vehicle knocked him to the ground and crushed him with a tire, authorities said.
The driver then sped away, as if nothing had happened, witnesses reportedly told police.
NJ Transit driver Fayola Howard was arrested Tuesday more than a month after 55-year-old city resident Kevin Thomas died from his injuries.
Court documents newly obtained by New Jersey 101.5 provide chilling detail into the Dec. 31 hit-and-run.
It was not immediately clear Friday why it took months to arrest the 34-year-old Bloomfield resident, who NJ Transit had suspended during the investigation. The criminal complaint was signed by an investigator on Jan. 31, charging Howard with second-degree vehicular homicide, second-degree leaving the scene of a fatal crash, third-degree leaving the scene of a crash involving a serious injury and fourth-degree falsifying reports.
Howard was arrested Tuesday at Newark Liberty International Airport as she attempted to fly out of the country.
New Jersey 101.5 was not able to reach an attorney representing Howard.
The charges filed by investigators say Howard tried to cover up what she did by lying on an accident report she filed with NJ Transit, claiming that Thomas had run alongside the bus. Her report left out the part about his arm getting caught and the part about Thomas getting hit by the bus, police said.
Authorities said Howard was well aware that Thomas was caught in the front door next to her seat because he shouted at her and she shouted back.
Thomas and a companion were passengers on the No. 1 bus on Sanford Avenue and the sequence of events that eventually led to his demise appears to have started with him being a gentleman.
Police said that when a woman got off at a stop, Thomas noticed that she had left something behind, so he and his companion got off to hand it to her.
Thomas’ companion got back on the bus with Thomas following right behind. But Howard then slammed the door on Thomas as he was stepping on, catching his right forearm, police said.
After shouting at each other, Howard pulled away, forcing Thomas to run with the bus so that he wouldn’t get dragged on the pavement.
Howard pulled free near the corner of Mount Vernon Place. The bus then made a right turn, striking Thomas and knocking him to the ground, where he was run over by a rear right tire.
While this was happening, passengers were screaming for Howard’s attention, police said.
A driver who saw what had happened, attempted to wave down the bus driver but Howard kept going, police said. It was witnesses who called 911, police said.
Thomas died from his injuries on Jan. 6, leaving behind his longtime companion and an adult daughter.
Thomas, a graduate of West Side High School, had worked at the Marriott, New Community Transportation and Pathmark. He was a devoted fan of the Boston Celtics and Dallas Cowboys and enjoyed spending time with his nieces and nephews.
“He was well known and loved by many,” his obituary says. “He was fun, loving and carefree.”
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.